In an era where people have endless options for entertainment, reading a book doesn’t always end up at the top of that list. With the abundance of easily accessible video games, television shows and movies, books are competing against high-tech equipment that makes reading seem old-fashioned. The number of children reading as a pastime activity continues to decrease with the rise of tablets and smartphones. While those games and videos can be entertaining, they are consuming free time that could be spent reading, which is proven to positively impact brain power and knowledge, according to a Reader’s Digest article covering the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study.
The article and survey indicated that positive reading habits will help children and adults become well-rounded, cultured and can even increase empathy. Furthermore, children who read regularly or listen to someone read to them will more likely continue reading as adults.
Reading at a young age helps children develop literacy, improves writing skills and sparks interest in learning new subjects and stories. Reader’s Digest reported that reading facilitates healthy brain functioning and power. Reading has also been shown to expand emotional intelligence. The emotional and intellectual growth reading provides far outweighs those of Fortnite, Netflix and Angry Birds.
It’s vital to start your children’s love for reading as early as possible. If they have yet to learn to read on their own, read to them. It’s a great bonding time with your children and will benefit you both in the long-run.
Kenneth Kidd, professor of Literature for the Adolescent at the University of Florida, said that key elements to search for in books are lively and interesting characters and relevance to modern-day life.
“Kids are actually reading tons, but it’s true that screens compete for time,” Kidd said.
If you’re having trouble finding books that will keep your children reading into adulthood, here are some books to consider for your children at any age.
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip
Tove Jansson, Ages 5 and up
Jansson is globally regarded as one of the foremost children’s writers of the 1900s. Her illustrated novels take place in the magical world of the Moomins, an extremely close family of hippo-shaped beings. The Moomins are light-hearted and outgoing creatures whose stories are told in chapters through witty humor. The comic strips cover everyday activities and challenges that are relatable to any reader. The best part of the Moomin series? There’s six volumes to capture your child’s attention and keep him or her reading for a long time after the first volume is finished. Kidd recommended the Moomin books as great international novels, labeling them as terrific.
A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle, Ages 8-13
This much-awarded 1962 novel shows its timelessness in its 2018 film adaption. Meg feels exceptionally average compared to her talented siblings and scientist parents. After the disappearance of her father, who was studying a tesseract (also known as a wrinkle in time), she goes on a journey to find him with her brother and the most popular boy in her school. It takes one amazing adventure through time and space for Meg to discover the truth about herself, her peers, society and science. The recent film production offers a great opportunity to get your children to think about which they liked better – the book or the movie.
Kidd said he is a fan of the novel and finds it to be very timely with the upcoming film.
The Phantom TollBooth
Norton Juster, Ages 10-13
Milo, a young boy, goes on a comical and educational journey to discover that his life was not as dull and boring as he thought. The adventure teaches Milo through inventive characters in every subject from learning about time from a dog named Tock to meeting a “mathemagician,” and even stretches into the topics of jumping to conclusions and rhyme and reason. The Phantom TollBooth takes its readers on
an adventure to show that life is a lot more interesting than we may think – if we’re
willing to look a bit deeper.
“A fantasy classic that is very much worth reading, and wonderful for sheer inventiveness, language play, etc.,” Kidd said.
American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang, Ages 13 and up
This graphic novel is told through the three parallel stories of Jin, Danny, and the Monkey King. It dives into Jin’s venture at his new school, where he is the only Chinese-American student, but wants to be an all-American boy with the all-American girl he loves. Danny is an all-American boy who has it all. That is until his Chinese cousin visits and ruins his reputation at school, leading him to transfer to a school where he can start fresh. The Monkey King is thousands of years old and a master of kung fu and discipline. He wants to join the immortal gods, but is told there is no room for a monkey. This book breaks barriers in tolerance and acceptance of oneself and others, no matter one’s background.
Kidd emphasized how good “American Born Chinese” is, and raved about graphic novels.
“Graphic novels are superb these days, and can appeal not only to students who aren’t traditional readers, but also to very literate readers,” Kidd said.
I’ll Give You the Sun
Jandy Nelson, Ages 14 and up
A New York Times Bestselling novel about twins, Jude and Noah. Noah is quiet and spends his time constantly drawing. Jude is a talkative risk-taker. The two are inseparable, until something happens that changes both Jude and Noah, and causes them to stop speaking to one another. The story is told from the point-of-views of Noah and Jude, as both only know half of the story. This tale, involving messages of family, loss and betrayal, will not only capture your children’s hearts, but teach them lessons on first love, misfortunes life may throw at them and, overall, that certain people are in our lives for a reason.
Kidd said there are so many books to choose from that it is nearly impossible to narrow this list down to just five. Scholastic, The Children’s Book Council, and the American Library Association are highly regarded sources that will provide picture books, graphic novels, chapter books and novels of all genres, from realism and fantasy to fiction and poetry.